Excerpt : RELIGION
Passengers on a Mandera-bound bus thwarted Al Shabaab’s attempt early this week to single out Christians for slaughter, by refusing to be segregated on religious grounds. Instead, they rubbed the gunmen’s noses in dust by telling them off and daring them to kill them all. It was an extra-ordinary act of courage, and an expression of defiance to what has now become a pattern of their attacks. In the July 2015 massacre in Mandera town, a landlady Mrs Naima Mohamed firmly stood in the way of the gunmen who attempted to slaughter her tenants. They gunned her down, and proceeded to mow down fourteen Christian tenants.
In the Garissa University College attack, the two local Muslim watchmen who resisted were the first victims. Many residents of Garissa were exasperated by the military’s cordoning of the halls while students were being slaughtered inside; interviewed later, they regretted being blocked from busting the halls and literary fight the gunmen. A year earlier, residents of Garissa town provided a human fence around churches on Sundays to protect their Christian brothers from attacks following earlier raids on churches by the militants.
However, this narrative rarely gets into the public discourse. The security agencies stereotyping, and perennial profiling of the Muslim community has created a perception that the Muslims are indifferent to the plight of their Christian residents, or are even supporters of these terrorists. The result is the usual collective punishment of the community by the state apparatus.
Yet, 70% of the over 12,000 terror related fatalities globally last year were Muslims. The recent attempts by terrorists to target Christians are devious deceptions to dupe Muslims. This year alone, Al Shabaab has killed fifteen MPs in neighbouring Somalia, not to mention the countless number of other Muslims being blown up nearly every week in that country.
Islamophobic stereotyping and bigotry is increasing in a world under a constant grip of fear of terrorist attacks. Some US presidential aspirants’ anti-Muslim rhetoric that holds all Muslims culpable for the actions of terror groups reinforce these negative narratives that Muslims are the enemy. But the stereotyping is not just about individuals; it has taken a state character. In the recent spat between Russia and Turkey, Putin’s government labeled Turkey a pro-terrorist regime that is funneling support to ISIL. Never mind that Turkey is a NATO member at the forefront of the war on terror, and is itself a victim of these terror attacks.
True, Muslims have a greater responsibility in preventing the use of their religion to spread violent extremist ideology because the religion is being used as justification for the violence. But is the violence evidence that Islam is responsible, or that it needs reform? Certainly not! The scripture has been with us for centuries, and it does not and has not radicalized the vast majority of the faithful into extremism. Nor are the majority of Muslims supportive of terrorism for whatever reasons.
Graham Fuller, a former vice-chairman of US National Intelligence Council at the CIA and a senior political analyst at Rand argues in his book ‘A World Without Islam’ that the real problem lies ‘in the nature of human aspirations.’ It is the dogmatic thinking, which inhibits social order and breeds hatred, violence or war. He argues that the ‘true horrors of the 20th century have almost nothing to do with religions; two world wars, Franco, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, Rwanda – the death of hundreds of millions’ through what he calls ‘secular extremism’ based on dogmatic ideas.
In Islam, there is no compulsion of faith. The manifestations of violence have more to do with political and cultural frictions, geo-political interests, power rivalries, statecraft aspirations and not the religion, as is the case today in Iraq, Libya, Yemen or Syria.